Organic Church vs GMO Church: or maybe we should appoint someone to be in charge of starting spontaneous singing…

devosOne of the many problems that evangelicalism faces in America today is the disillusionment of a majority of evangelicals. Yes, we, or our parents, believed our local religious radio station playing Dr. Dobson in the 1980s, telling us that if we would listen to his show every day, go to church every Sunday, take our kids to youth group every Friday night, and buy those family devotionals for $21.95 (the family that prays together, stays together), that our children would be drug-free heterosexual virgins, faithfully serving God into the next millennium. They promised.

The fundamentalist sect I was born into had a different list: get baptized correctly, go to church three times a week, plus gospel meetings (called revivals in other cultures), no dancing, no swimming, no gambling, no drinking, no smoking, no mini-skirts. Then you could be guaranteed that your family would stay married, be happy and your kids would be faithful and marry within the sect.

The truth is, of course, very different, as we all found out. Evangelical ministers hit the ministry with idealistic high hopes, and start realizing the lies they have been fed very quickly. Within five years one third of ministers have quit the ministry, seventy-five percent of evangelical ministers are deep into career burn-out, believing they are in bad marriages, 25% considering having an affair, 69% use porn. (But we can buy a book about conquering porn, $18.95, on sale now if you call within the next 15 minutes, written by a conqueror and published by one of the pro-family ministries on the radio.

texting

Or better yet, we could have the author come and speak, $2,250, and kick it off with a survey of the congregation that shows that 69% of the men are using porn right now. Add to that a book about how to put our marriages back together after an affair, $22.95, written by a forgiving spouse, and those bases are covered.) Yet these disillusioned pastors have to get up every Sunday and repeat the assurances to the hopeful flock: your marriages will survive the endless hours of TV and malls and be loving (and even sexy), your kids, despite the constant texting, will be peaceful, safe and responsible, like a re-run show from the 1960s.Beaver

The base not covered is the sinking feeling that rather than our faith being built on rock, as we sang in Sunday school, but built on polyethylene, sort of like an angel statuette bought at the local Christian book store in the 1980s (before the internet put book stores out of business). To call the local Christian book store a “book” store was to accept the ongoing evangelical practice of lying to ourselves. Yes, they displayed two shelves of the current bestsellers, but the rest of the store was devoted to lacy beribboned polystyrene kitsch that reassured the purchasers they were Christians, or advertised to the neighbors to stay away, because these people were hard core.

angel candle

The evangelical church is on a never-ending treadmill of revamping and revising: Perhaps we should have spontaneous singing at the beginning of worship. What about adding djembe drums? The sound system is inadequate, and the projector has to be replaced. We’re showing a new video series complete with workbooks and small group leader guides. The pastoral committee is interviewing a new dynamic tattooed minister. The ministry on Thursday nights for the divorced is going well, but we’re having to ask the ex-gay ministry to meet in the library to make room for them. The parking lot was just repaved, and we’re one third of our way to meeting our financial goal to build a gym (Would you be willing to give sacrificially?). The biggest challenge facing our church? Keeping the nursery staffed with volunteers who have filled out the security check.giving

fast food sad

Would you like a helping of faith with those fries? Our spiritual fellowship package is on sale today.

If I don’t expect fellowship or nutrition at a fast food enterprise that ships in frozen food from a warehouse and pays its workers minimum wage to smile at me, why would I expect fellowship or spiritual nutrition from a traditional evangelical church?

Fifty percent of believers do not attend church. We have voted with our feet. We could call this a lack of faith or commitment, but I prefer to call it a lack of church, broken promises, a thin understanding of God portrayed by our churches.

For some believers, this is an easy transition: church did not work, so they quit attending. They continue to pray and think about God daily. For others it is a difficult transition: they believed in the traditional church system whole-heartedly, they trusted evangelicalism deeply, they were horribly disappointed, and now they are angry at the liars who entrapped them.

Whenever I write a rant like this people ask me: Then where do you worship or fellowship? My answer is three-fold:

1. First of all, I haven’t finished ranting, so I don’t know where I’ll land.

2. I have a Shape Note club I attend on Tuesday nights that sings a cappella from the Sacred Harp, a hymnal, circa 1770-1870. The group is made up of ages 18 to 87, mostly atheist/agnostic, 30% Jewish, several Buddhists, 4% evangelical. We sing for two hours, then we go to a local pub and talk for another 90 minutes, at which we have had many spiritual conversations: Were the gospels all written or influenced by the apostle Paul? Did Jesus literally rise from the dead? Can Christianity be separated from its medieval political history? Why do fundamentalists collect guns? Why do conservative churches vote against helping the poor through Medicaid? How to forgive people who beep at me in traffic. How to stay married.
These are not conversations that the evangelical 4% in the group start. These are organic conversations without a hidden agenda. The Shape Note club has no leader, except someone who volunteers to relay email announcements, and someone else who brings the loaner song books. It has no organization, except for finding meeting space. When a member of the group has a death in the family, many members show up at the funeral.

3. I don’t need a designated group in order to be worshiping and fellowshipping. I am “at church” all the time. Tony Campolo said, “I don’t have to do sex, I am sex.” I say much the same thing: “I don’t have to do church, I am church.” Everywhere I go I am connecting and fellowshipping and encouraging, to a lesser or greater extent, successfully or unsuccessfully. No, the Shape Note club does not meet all of my worship and fellowship needs. It just meets more of them than any GMO traditional church I have been a member of.

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Evangelical Church, Evangelism, History, Manipulation, Psychology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Organic Church vs GMO Church: or maybe we should appoint someone to be in charge of starting spontaneous singing…

  1. Gary Cummings says:

    Mark,
    I echo what you have written. Generally I feel better emotionally and spiritually not “going to church”.. Like you, I feel my wife and I are our church and the people we connect with daily.
    I make my medical rounds a couple of times a week, seeing my patients. Some days I spend the day with them giving them chemotherapy. I have been with many of them for years, seeing them through the death of their parents and their spouses. I teach newer nurses and counsel a few from time to time. I volunteer at the Free Clinic and that is my Wednesday Church. On Sundays, we go to the local Methodist Church as it is the least harmful group in the area. From time to time we do hear a portion of God’s Word.
    Basically I feel the church is the enemy of the Kingdom of God. I was trained to be a COC preacher back in the 60’s. I wanted to be a missionary. I started preaching at a little country church in Colorado, and made it about a year, before I resigned to do Alternative Service. My year there was one of being told that I was hired to build a rich church, and that I should stay out of the jails preaching or counseling, don’t minister to the runaway kids, or the shut-ins in the area. After a year I realized what a crock of crap the church was in its current form.
    I tried over the years to fit in, as a Friends Minister, Bible Teacher at a Pentecostal college, house churches, and a community church. Most of these were cultural affairs more like the Kiwanas than anything resembling the way of Jesus.
    It took me till I was 66 to realize that fact–what calls itself the church really isn’t the church. They are all little American clubs pushing war and politics and playing in the band of the Church of Titanic, which is a sinking ship.
    What the future holds I don’t know. I am happy to get through each day alive. I think about God, read the Bible, and try to help a few folks. I wish I could do more.-Thanks, Gary

    • Mark says:

      Wow, Gary! I was a little scared when I wrote my rant, waited a week or two to post it, and the first comment is an even stronger statement of what I believe. “They are little American clubs pushing war and politics and playing in the band of the Church of the Titanic…”

  2. Gary Cummings says:

    Mark,
    Did I miss anything? Am I holding back? Anything you would like to add?
    Happy Thankgiving. By the way, I think the church service should be remodeled after our Thanksgiving meal. After all, the Eucharist is the REAL Thanksgiving meal.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you brother in Christ.
    Gary in Virginia

  3. Dakota says:

    Mark,
    I somehow in studying about instrumental music have come across your blog. I have to admit I am a “hardline” church of Christ (or have attended various ones throughout growing up). I am in college, and I am having a lot of studies with people of different religions (or denominations). I have never been the type of person to take something at face value just because someone taught me that. So I’m going back to the fundamental basics to see what I believe and what the truth says. Point being is, I have a lot of questions on some of the things and posts that you make because I want to know what you believe and why so I can truly decide on my own what the truth says. Is the only way for me to talk to get in touch with you is through this blog? Thanks.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Dakota,
      You are welcome to private email me at info@ex-churchofchrist.com
      Mark

      • Gary Cummings says:

        Dakota,
        I still love acapella music when done well. My wife and I spent some time with Mennonites, and part of their singing is acapella. It is really nice. We live in the Shenandoah Valley where the shape note singing started. It still has an influence here. The only issue I have against hard-line COC music is that that they say it is the ONLY way to sing, and that it is a salvation issue.
        Blessings to you and enjoy your acapella singing,
        Gary

  4. Brent Bacon says:

    Most COC’s do not think acapella music is a salvation issue. We think we have no authority- so we dont do it. Do we know it is a sin- no. Do we think we should test Gods hand- no.

    • Gary Cummings says:

      Most COC’s teach that instrumental music is a sin. There is a small of group of instrumental music COC’s, but they are really Christian Churches.

  5. Torah says:

    To Dakota,
    I’m 21 and I grew up in the church of Christ, the same one till I left at age 18. Mine was not a “Hard-line” church but still super conservative, I never understood how different my church was until I got to college because I had never experienced any other churches! I barley experienced other churches of Christ! lol But I’m telling you NEVER LOOSE FAITH God will always be there, you have a family, a spiritual family that God has planed for you, I’ve met mine, God has used them to teach me the TRUTH and to LOVE everyone no matter what. I’m on worship team, I love my pastor’s (one who’s a woman!) and believe in crazy God miracles, and tongues. My church is small, loud, and bursting at the seams with brotherly love and a desire to share that love with well everyone. I’m Glad your asking questions and seeking answers, growing up in the church of Christ I never thought i’d be were I am today, Proud to say I’m a Jesus Freak, May God bless you with all the truth you seek ❤

  6. garycummings says:

    Torah,
    I am glad you found a church open to the Holy Spirit with power.
    God bless you and all you seek. May we all find,

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